Victim Of The Digital Transition: Analog TV Guide On Screen Devices?

Bruce Perens over at Technocrat pointed out something I hadn’t even thought of, and that I don’t recall being discussed elsewhere – the pending possible failure of TV Guide On Screen (TVGOS) dependent devices. According to Gemstar, more than 25 million households have TVGOS devices. Many, probably most, of these devices obtain their data from a signal embedded in the local analog PBS station’s broadcast. While an updated version of TVGOS which can use data from digital stations was released in 2006, most of the installed devices are analog-only.

The Gemstar TVGOS guide system was, and is, used in many TVs, VCRs, DVD recorders, and even DVRs. The Sony CableCARD DVRs, the DHG-HDD250 and DHG-HDD500, rely on TVGOS for not only their guide data, but also to set their clocks.

What will happen to all of these devices when the analog broadcasts cease on (or before) February 11, 2009? Even if you don’t use antenna, if the local PBS station goes all digital, the feed to your cable provider would be from the digital source. Even if the cable provider continued to provide the channel in analog form, it would be unlikely to contain the TVGOS data as the source feed would not. It seems likely that these devices will simply cease to function, or at least suffer a major loss of features, when the guide data is no longer available. It is already known that the Sony DVRs wouldn’t work in some areas of the country where the TVGOS data was simply unavailable as it was not carried by any of the stations.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Ben Drawbaugh

    What makes you think that the delivery of analog channels to cable will change?

    At this point the infrastructure is in place and has worked for years. If the cable co’s started to use the digital feed and convert it to analog, it would require new equipment that would only be used for a limited time, as cable is expected to cease analog in the next 5-10 years.

    Now, I’m sure there are some examples where cable co’s are receiving the analog signal OTA, and they’ll have to change the deliver method, but it’d still be cheaper to keep the signal analog then to go digital.

  • MegaZone

    It is already changing, cable systems are looking to providers to provide content in digital formats because it takes less bandwidth and storage. Back-end systems are going increasingly all-digital with each upgrade. And the channels themselves are often going 100% digital on the back-end as they move to ATSC. Everything is being done digital, and if there is need for an analog feed it is simply taken from the digital source.

    The cable systems already have systems in place to handle digital sources, because the major cable networks are distributed digitally. And many local network channels supply the digital feed to cable, which then converts it to analog for analog cable customers – the same as they do with many cable networks.

    Even if the cable company took an analog signal from the channel, if the channel does everything digitally on their end and simply converts to analog for cable, then it still won’t have the embedded data. And that’s if the cable company continues to provide the channel in analog format at all – some cable systems are already 100% digital.

  • Lance Gordon

    As of November 2008, TVGOS has disappeared from DirecTV. DirecTV included the TV Guide Channel, which contained the analog TVGOS data. Not susprisingly, a DirecTV tech knew nothing of TVGOS and its existence on the TV Guide Channel. Macrovision, the owners of TVGOS, do not provide any sort of user interface (you can’t contact them directly). It seems that the owner of whatever hardware device (DVD Recorder, newer TV etc.) must contact the maker of that device, who then in turn can (if you’re lucky) contact MacroVision/TVGOS. Rumor has it that the digital version of TVGOS will be broadcast by CBS, but of course we don’t know what upgrade will be required for each device that previously read the analog version to be able to read the digital version (if or when it becomes available). I’ve heard tell that Version 9 of the TVGOS firmware will be able to deal with the digital version. I’m lucky enough to have that version, but what about the zillions of devices with previous versions? Doew anybody care?

  • Michael Silberman

    It is clear to me….. planned obsolescence. The device manufacturers have no need to come up with a “fix” as they would rather you upgrade your device to a new one – in my case a 4 year old LG LCD widescreen tv. The cable companies get to push subscribers into upgrading to the digital box for which they can collect fees (something they could not do with TVGOS). Think of it as a great way to stimulate the economy – a milllion households upgrading their devices….poor Circuit City could have used the business! I am one of the unfortunate ones who will just have to get used to the “better system” that actually offers me less. Perhaps I will have a reason to choose between Dish or Cable – I WILL GO WITH THE FIRST COMPANY (DISH OR CABLE) THAT FIGURES OUT HOW TO KEEP THE OLD TVGOS SIGNAL !!! So if anyone from Dish or Cable is following this thread —–